Women's volleyball falls to Duke, Wake Forest

Young Cavaliers show some progress, but can't find a victory at home

Sp.VolleyballJelenaNovakovic

Virginia sophomore outside hitter Jelena Novakovic that gave her team a chance to break away after a key block against Duke Friday night.

Mariana Fraser | Cavalier Daily

Virginia came up short against Duke and Wake Forest in weekend matchups at home that showed some promise for Virginia volleyball, but ultimately resulted in another two losses against conference opponents. 

The Cavaliers (4-17, 0-10 ACC) began their weekend against a confident Blue Devils (13-8, 5-5 ACC) team. Fresh off a loss against FSU, Duke was able to bounce back and make quick work of Virginia despite dropping the first set — coming out ahead 3-1.

Virginia opened up its match against Duke by making some key plays, including a block by sophomore outside hitter Jelena Novakovic that gave Virginia a chance to break away with a run of their own. Duke was able to rally and led Virginia 20-15 at the end of the set, but a 4-0 run by Virginia put the team back in the game and within distance of a crucial win to help set the tone of the rest of the match. The Blue Devils were at set point with Virginia trailing 24-21, but thanks to kills by Virginia junior outside hitter Harley Sebastian and Novakovic, the Cavaliers were able to edge out the Blue Devils 26-24. 

The second set of the match was just as contentious, with neither team being able to get any early big leads. Duke was able to get around the Cavalier defense for just long enough, making successive short runs that made it difficult for Virginia to keep pace. Virginia began to mount a comeback, but it wasn't enough as Duke took the set 25-21. 

Duke carried this momentum with them in the third set, scoring first. However, a huge 7-1 run by Virginia gave the Cavaliers an opportunity to put the set away early. The Blue Devils came back and tied it up 11-11, but the Cavaliers struck back with a 5-0 run. With a major victory in sight, Virginia was up 20-17. However, a devastating comeback by Duke left the score at 28-26. 

After this, Virginia was unable to offer much resistance to Duke in the fourth set, and failed to answer Duke’s long stretches of offense — dropping the set 25-12. 

“We had some really high levels of play tonight, and I feel like we let that one slip through our hands,” Virginia Coach Aaron Smith said. 

Virginia then faced off against Wake Forest (11-11, ACC 3-7) Sunday in a tight game that lasted all five sets. The Cavaliers opened up the game with a statement 25-16 win, but Wake Forest was able to keep pace with the Cavaliers in the second set and prevented a second potential Cavalier victory as the Demon Deacons came out ahead with a 28-26 win.

In a hard-fought third set, neither team was able to find any big runs, but Wake Forest was able to come away with their second win, 25-22. The Cavaliers came back with a dominant display of their offense and defense in the fourth set, taking a blowout win, 25-15, and sending the game into a tiebreaker set. In the fifth set, Virginia could not stop Wake Forest’s offense, and gave up a heartbreaking 15-7 loss. 

“The story of the whole season has been inconsistent play for us,” Smith said. “When we were good, we were good, and when we struggled. We let things compound on that. We didn’t show the mental toughness we needed to, particularly in the fifth set. That is something we need to work on and it’s part of the growing process with a young team.”

Virginia will be back in action as they travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to face the Boston College Eagles Thursday night. 

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